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Steelers rookie Devin Gardner willing to do anything to make the team

Michigan's former starting back is gelling quite nicely with his new team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will look to utilize him in a multitude of ways.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Athletic college quarterbacks often have one trait about them, and that's that they only want to play quarterback on the next level.

This is where former Michigan QB Devin Gardner is different.

Sure, Gardner would most likely love to be getting ready to start under center for an NFL team, just as he had at Michigan over the past two and a half seasons. But after going undrafted and being waved by the New England Patriots this past off season, Gardner just wants to be wanted, which appears to be the case in Pittsburgh.

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, the Steelers called, then quickly e-mailed Gardner about coming to Pittsburgh as soon as they heard that he was back on the market after the Patriots parted ways with the Wolverines former signal caller. Gardner signed not long after, and since he arrived in Pittsburgh, has been embracing any role the Steelers have asked him to fill.

In Pittsburgh, Garnder has been getting practice time at both quarterback and wide receiver, although it's a certainty that he will most likely be doing more of the latter this preseason and beyond. At 6-feet 4-inches and 216 pounds, Gardner is an ideal size for a wide receiver. He also has the elusiveness to make cornerbacks miss in space. It's that versatility that led to Gardner recording 24 rushing touchdowns and four more receiving scores during his time with the Maize and Blue.

"So I'm splitting time, doing two-a-days a lot," he said in Snyder's recent piece on the rookie. "It's nice to be wanted and they want to use you in a lot of different schemes as a receiver."

Then, there's the Kordell Stewart theory, meaning that Gardner could also seen time behind center in various packages, most notably in short yardage situations. Stewart thrived in these situations during his "Slash" years in 1995 and '96, often covering third and shorts with either a quarterback sneak or finding room on the outside. There were also those trick plays, when Stewart would line up along with the Steelers' starting quarterback in the backfield, creating confusion which often led to big plays like this. Given Gardner's skill set, it's not hard to imagine Todd Haley putting together offensive packages exclusively for Garnder to make the Steelers already explosive offense even more potent.

While some former college quarterback stars would gripe about having to change positions, Gardner is just happy to be competing for playing time with a team that is trying to defend their division title. Gardner said he enjoys the atmosphere that exists within the team as well as the direct approach of the coach, Mike Tomlin.

"Coach Tomlin says exactly what he feels and what he sees from me," Gardner said.

At Michigan, Gardner was honored by being awarded the No.98, which was the number of Michigan's first Heisman winner, Tom Harmon. It was a symbol of how revered and respected Gardner was at Michigan, along with giving insight into his character and ability to lead a team. Gardner is now going from leading to learning in Pittsburgh, with the teachers being among the best players at their respective positions in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. So far, Gardner has fit in well with a team that has many established veterans, veterans that surely welcome Gardner's work ethic as well as his physical ability.

"I get a lot of feedback. It's such a nice, good locker room. Antonio Brown hangs out with me, takes me with his kids. Like I'm part of the team. The guys at the top of the team, and Ben (Roethlisberger), being able to hang out with him like that has been pretty good."

It's good to be a Pittsburgh Steelers right now and, apparently, it's good to be Devin Gardner.